12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o: Forever a Fashionista and past Oscar-style precedence

Published by adviser, Author: Katie Ellis - Rocket Contributor, Date: March 4, 2014
From left, Jack Lemmon, Miss Van Fleet, Grace Kelly and Ernest Borgnine hold their Oscars for outstanding 1955 performances, on March 21, 1956. Borgnine died Sunday, July 8, 2012. He was 95. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)
From left, Jack Lemmon, Miss Van Fleet, Grace Kelly and Ernest Borgnine hold their Oscars for outstanding 1955 performances, on March 21, 1956. Borgnine died Sunday, July 8, 2012. He was 95. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

There is no awards show with as storied a history as the Academy Awards, which had its first annual ceremony at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929.  Winners were notified of their victory three months before the ceremony was held, a procedure that continued until 1941, whenever the sealed-envelope system was invented.  No one was able to experience the glitz and glamour of the Oscars until 1953, whenever millions across the country were able to watch their favorite movie stars take home the famed trophy.

Once the ceremony was able to be seen on television, fashion captured the spotlight, and the age of Hollywood glamour was born.  People began to pay attention to what stars were wearing, a trend that eventually led to actresses wearing high-end designers and the now infamous question, “who are you wearing”, said in the mid-1990s.

While the first red carpet wasn’t rolled out until 1961, Grace Kelly set the tone for the future with her gorgeous ice-blue gown by Edith Head for the 1955 ceremony.  Custom made by Head, a costume designer who would go on to win numerous Oscars for her design work, it was the most expensive gown to be worn to the Oscars at that time, with a price tag of $4,000.  The luxurious satin column dress featured a dramatic train, and was accessorized with white gloves and a flowered handbag.

Kelly was just the first in a long line of fashionable women who brought their fashion A-game to the show, and with the advent of stars wearing designer dresses, fashion became an even more important element in celebrating filmic achievements.  Whenever Uma Thurman arrived at the Oscars in 1995 in custom Prada, high-end designers became the norm for the Hollywood elite.

Nominated that night for her work in “Pulp Fiction”, Thurman’s lavender gown had a simple silhouette with thin straps and delicate beading around the hemline.  She finished off her look with a matching bedazzled shawl, sandals, and handbag all in the same hue.

That same year, Joan Rivers asked Jennifer Tilly the question that everyone wanted the answer to, “who are you wearing”, a moment that has since changed reporting for all awards shows from the Academy Awards to the Emmys.  Today, stars can’t walk down the red carpet without being asked what designer dress they have on, what name brand shoes they’re wearing, or what designer they borrowed their jewelry from.

Some of the greatest gowns to ever be worn to the Oscars were worn by Best Actress winners of the past 15 years.  Whenever Gwyneth Paltrow took home the award in 1999 for “Shakespeare in Love” she wore a custom pink Ralph Lauren gown that stole the show.  She looked like a princess in the dress thanks to its full skirt, sheer shawl, and matching diamond choker.

Julia Roberts’ vintage Valentino gown that she wore in 2001 on her walk down the red carpet is undoubtedly one of the most iconic dresses ever worn to an Oscars telecast.  Pulled straight from the designer’s vault, the black gown featured a white “y” stripe down the length of the front, and a series of white stripes that led into a black train that trailed behind her, as she walked onto the stage to accept her award.

Lupita Nyong’o can now join the club of the best dressed actresses to ever walk the red carpet thanks to the powder blue Prada gown she wore on Sunday night, whenever she accepted her first Oscar for her supporting role in “12 Years a Slave”.  She worked with the design house to create the plunging V-neck gown with a delicately sequined skirt that earned her the nickname, “Lupitarella”.

As the cost for a star to attend the Oscars is about $35,000 according to Forbes, which includes everything from the limo to the fabulous designer gown, it’s no wonder why the Hollywood elite are always so well-dressed.  Kelly’s gown from 1955 changed the future of Academy Awards fashion, and allowed Paltrow, Roberts, and Nyong’o to make iconic statements on the red carpet.


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